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The Essential Skills of Knitting Literacy

October 30, 2011

Over the past six months my knitting time has decreased and my learning time has increased. I’ve begun working with a local organization known as the Saskatchewan Literacy Network (SLN). What does this have to do with stitching? Knitting is never far from my mind and, as I learn the finer points of literacy concepts and essential skills, I find that they are infused throughout all my activities, especially knitting.

I began my travels through the land of literacy and essential skills with a very antiquated and narrow definition of literacy. I held the notion that literacy is about education levels (reading and writing) and that is all. I have since come to know that literacy is much more than that. It is about how we understand and move through the world around us. Literacy is no longer associated with only reading and writing activities. Improving literacy skills is no longer only for those with lower levels of education. We can all find something we need to understand better. Financial literacy, digital literacy, health literacy, media literacy, and workplace literacy are some of the areas where we can all improve. Remember, we are all learning all the time and improving our literacy (or understanding) is a lifelong pursuit.

What did I find as I navigated through unfamiliar networks, varying definitions, and complicated concepts? I found that knitting literacy (check out this paper about improving student achievement through knitting) is a concept I already knew and could apply to my understanding of the more complicated concepts of literacy and essential skills. The world of literacy involves an understanding of Nine Essential Skills, as defined by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

Essential skills are the skills we need and use every day in order to be successful in our communities, at home, and at work. They include: reading, writing, numeracy, document use, computer use, critical thinking, working with others, oral communication, and continuous learning. We use these skills in nearly everything we do from participating in our writing communities, to cooking meals at home, and to evolve with our professions. They form the basis of all other skills we use in our lives, and that includes knitting.

Yes, knitting. I have thought about this for quite some time and thought I’d share with you how these essential skills are used by knitters every time they pick up two sharp, pointy sticks and transform a ball of string into works of art.

Like most of you, I knit nearly every day. But, how do I know how to create a thing of beauty from two sharp, pointy sticks and a ball of string? My knowledge and know how flows from a firm grounding in each of the essential skills:

  1. I use reading and comprehension skills to make decisions on the pattern I want to use, to research techniques, and yarn choices. I read magazines, stitch dictionaries, blog postings on the internet, and other resources to learn new techniques and understand current trends in the knitting world.
  2. I use numeracy skills to work out gauge, yarn amounts, and stitch counts. (I don’t guarantee that possessing an expert knowledge of numeracy skills will cure the imminent gauge error that will haunt your knitting. But it can’t hurt!) Knitting is filled with math or numeracy. Think about the math skills involved when you substitute a different weight of yarn to create something uniquely yours from a prewritten pattern. Think about the adjustments you make as you create knitted fabric that fits the unique curves of your body to a “T.”
  3. I use writing skills each time I put my vision down on paper in order to document the process, technique, and instructions other knitters need to successfully recreate my vision. I use writing skills each time I make a post to this blog. I use writing skills each time I draft an email to a fellow knitter. I use writing skills each time I email a designer to tell them that their vision is “off” and there is absolutely no way their instructions will successfully result in the project they promise. Okay, maybe that is just me…
  4. I use document use skills every time I pick up a pattern and bring someone else’s vision to life. Knitters, you know how difficult it can be to work your way through complicated lace charts, intricate cabling designs, and to understand the twists and turns of knitting related instructional material. Without a firm understanding of how to use and interpret patterns (documents) our knitterly pursuits will end badly.
  5. I use computer use skills whenever I log onto Ravelry, use social media to connect with knitters across the world, and whenever I place an online order with my favourite yarn company, yarn stores located in faraway lands, or www.ebay.com. Without a firm understanding of computers and how to use them, I would miss out on scooping up that antique darning egg off eBay and wouldn’t have known about the beautiful stash cast offs from an Eastonian knitter.
  6. I use critical thinking skills every time I bring together pattern, yarn, and needles. A lot of thought is involved in giving our creativity life from decided what to knit to choosing that perfect yarn to ensuring we have all the supplies needed to accomplish this task. Without critical thinking skills I would be stuck in a quagmire of knitterly disasters with no hope of escaping the horrors of the infamous “work at the same time” instruction. (Yes, I have also frogged many knitterly works in progress because I missed that instruction!)
  7. I use working with others skills whenever I plan a stitch-n-sip meeting of the Saskatoon Knitting Circle.Members and I work together to ensure that everyone has a great time, enjoys stimulating conversation, and can easily participate in meetings that happen across the city of Saskatoon. We talk about politics, work together to solve knitting related disasters, and share our experiences and knowledge with one another. Without an understanding of this essential skill I would be knitting in isolation and miss out on opportunities to connect and share with other knitters in my community.
  8. I use oral communication skills whenever I explain a knitting difficulty I’ve experienced, help another knitter sort out a problem, and when describing what a knitterly lifestyle is all about. This essential skill is all about relaying a message or instructions so that it is easily understood by others.
  9. I use continuous learning skills each time I learn a new technique, learn something new from another knitter, and every time I open a knitting magazine or newsletter. Knitting is all about continuous learning. We are all learners all the time!

These Nine Essential Skills are the bedrock of our understanding of the world we live in. They are like the basic knit and purl stitch. We all struggled with them at the beginning of our knitting journey, but we also quickly realized that these two seemingly innocuous stitches ruled our knitterly world. They are the foundation on which all knitting greatness is built. Without a solid understanding and grounding in each of the essential skills (or the knit and purl stitch) we have a difficult time participating in our communities, at home, and at work (and knitterly enjoyment).

How do you use each of the Nine Essential Skills in your community, at home, and at work?

What role do the Nine Essential Skills play in your knitterly pursuits?

Are there other skills that you deem essential to accomplish your pursuits in knitting and life?

Happy Stitching!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. dianatwiss permalink
    October 31, 2011 11:29 am

    This is great and so very, very true. I love the analogy of Essential Skills as the bedrock, like the knit and purl stitch. Wonderful post. Keep them coming.

    • October 31, 2011 11:31 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Diana. The analogy seemed to work well and bridged the two concepts nicely.

      Happy Stitching!

  2. October 31, 2011 12:40 pm

    totally what ’embedding literacy’ is all about . . . thanks for poutting it into perspective!

    • October 31, 2011 12:44 pm

      Thanks, Holly. As the “new kid” in the literacy world, I am constantly looking wrap the new concepts and idea I’m learning within my own experience. Knitting and essential skills seemed destined to work together!

      Happy Stitching!

  3. October 31, 2011 1:42 pm

    I just love the way everything in the universe is interconnected. Being able to make connections, as you have between literacy and knitting, is a wonderful gift. Thank you for sharing your exploration of literacy, knitting, and essential skills.

    Happy knitting – and happy living! … Linda

    • October 31, 2011 2:21 pm

      Thank you for this kind compliment, Linda. I love the interconnectivity of the components that make up our lives. It seems to me that is those of us living those lives that is the connector between all the parts that make up the whole.

      Stitching and living are always happy in my world!

      Happy Stitching!

  4. Brigid Hayes permalink
    October 31, 2011 4:26 pm

    Well done Bonnie

    • October 31, 2011 4:33 pm

      Thank you, Brigid. It was a fun piece to write. 🙂

      Happy Stitching!

  5. Lady Di permalink
    October 31, 2011 6:46 pm

    I love your incorporation of literacy into the everyday! Well crafted blog, Bonnie.

    • October 31, 2011 6:52 pm

      Thanks! It means a lot coming from someone as accomplished in the world of literacy as you!

      Happy Stitching!

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